Flying into a glass wall

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Bird deaths in downtown Ottawa no laughing matter

Ever look out your office window, thinking it would be nice to switch places with the birds soaring past?

When you learn how many times our feathered friends have flown into glass buildings in the downtown, your opinion might change.

For instance, it’s happening quite regularly at the tall glass high rise at the corner of Laurier and Kent and the Constitution Square towers on Albert Street, two of Ottawa’s deadliest buildings when it comes to bird deaths, according to a national reporting map.

The map isn’t completely accurate, since incidents only started being tracked about a year ago by a dozen volunteers.

But concerned citizens are working with the Ottawa wing of the Fatal Light Awareness Program, an organization that educates people and builders on the various risks faced by city birds, especially during spring and fall migration.

“The main problem is that birds don’t see glass, they don’t recognize it as a solid surface,” said organizer Anouk Hoedeman.

Their stats show over the past 12 months, 112 birds have flown to their death at the high rise at Laurier and Kent – the No. 1 spot. There were 57 deaths at the towers on Constitution Square.

All totaled, the group recorded 386 bird deaths in the city.

Hoedeman is currently discussing bird-safe design guidelines with the City of Ottawa. Her organization is asking for volunteers to join patrols in the city to rescue injured birds and document fatalities online.

“Being able to rescue birds is really rewarding and to be able to document the problem and try to do something about it is really meaningful,” she said.

Hoedeman said each year up to a billion birds across North America die from collisions with windows, and the problem is widespread in Ottawa. When they’re injured, they make quick meals for gulls or other predators.

Most people don’t even see them, or just assume the birds are resting, she said.

A source who works in downtown real estate, but preferred not to be named, said he wasn’t aware of it being a problem in Ottawa, although his office did once rescue some urban ducklings that hatched in an office planter.

“Obviously if there is an issue we’d want to deal with it not ignore it,” he said.

The source said his company did have a bird collision problem with a building in suburban Toronto and he’d seen a special window treatment used as a solution.

Note to readers: This is a corrected. Metro incorrectly reported the number of bird deaths in Ottawa over the past 12 months recorded by the group.

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